Sonora’s popularity means more to her than a new Michael Kors purse. With Fall Fling around the corner, she’s on the lookout for the perfect gown in the small Texas town. But a ghost has different plans.
When her best friend’s body floats ashore Brushy Creek, Sonora is haunted by the corpse-like spirit. The incessant ghost refuses to leave the cheerleader alone. She must risk death and sanity to find her friend’s killer. If Sonora isn’t careful, she’ll be the next victim.
Girl Gone Ghost is a standalone novel. If you like gripping suspense, sizzling chemistry, and dark secrets, then you’ll love Dawn Husted’s mystery, thriller romance.
Perfect for fans of We Were Liars, Pretty Little Liars, and The Sixth Sense.
Available at: Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8ZTQV8
About the Author: Dawn Husted grew up in central Texas, in Aggieland. She discovered her love of writing after graduating from Texas A&M University.
She enjoys writing urban fantasy, science fiction, romance, and paranormal suspense.
She lives with her wild husband, two kids, one stray cat, and an Australian shepherd. Find out more at dawnhusted.com.
Would you like to get a sneak peek at Girl Gone Ghost? I’ve got it for you! Read on!
Yes, Brenham—a town in the birthplace of Texas—had a serial killer. My best friend’s body was discovered nine weeks ago.
Holding Magnolia’s obituary in my hand, I couldn’t peel my eyes away from her heart-shaped face. My eyes watered. The newspaper clipping encompassed her mesmerizing smile and all the years we spent growing up together. Why did she have to die? I kicked my shiny green pompoms into the corner of my room. One of my cheerleading medals fell off the bedroom wall, onto Kaylee’s fluffy black and white tail. My border collie growled and her back stiffened, hair raising along her spine.
“They’re only pompoms,” I muttered as I bent to pick up the medal. What’s the matter? The sea green ribbon attached to the medal had formed a perfect M on the carpet. Bending over, a chill wafted over my back and up my neck. The air conditioning hummed on above my head.
Kaylee showed her teeth at the corner. I waved my hand at her. “Stop it. Sit. What’s gotten into you?” I hung the gold medal back on the nail next to dozens of others. My fingers had crinkled the top edge of the clipping. Dang it.
I grabbed my copy of East of Eden off my desk and stuck the clipping between the pages to flatten it again—and put the obit away one last time. A familiar pang squeezed my chest, and I wiped a tear from my cheek with the back of my hand. I couldn’t focus on Magnolia anymore. I needed to let her go. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back. Opening my dresser drawer, I slid the novel inside. It rested beside my half of our friendship necklace, the same one I had removed two days after her death.
My phone buzzed with a text from my boyfriend, Chris Jenkins. Just pulled up.
In the reflection of the dresser mirror, an outline of our high school’s mascot stared at me with wide-eyes and a green, roaring mouth. I remembered the day Magnolia helped me place the cub sticker on the wall—the same day we made the cheerleading squad our freshman year, three years ago. Closing the drawer, I breathed the memory of Magnolia in and out for the last time.
The doorbell rang. I turned my light off and rushed to let Chris inside. We were having dinner tonight—like it was another normal Saturday night with my family.
Opening the front door, Chris walked in and winked. “Hey, babe.” His arms slid around my waist and squeezed. I laced my fingers through his. He smelled woodsy.
I glanced into the kitchen. Mom grabbed food from the island in the middle and placed the bowl on the dining table.
“Sonora, fill the glasses,” she said. Chris released my hands.
“Where have you been? I thought you’d be here fifteen minutes ago?” I asked him.
“Sonora, did you hear me? Fill the glasses, all the way to the top.”
I hated filling glasses with ice, and she knew it. The cold icky cubes sounded like freshly painted fingernails scraping the hood of my Taurus.
Mom’s pristine hair swayed on her poised shoulders as she hung her apron on the hook.
Chris followed me and grabbed the glasses off the kitchen island and handed them to me one by one, winking at me with his dreamy, dark chocolate eyes.
“Make that one half-full,” he whispered to me as he grinned.
I stuck my chin out to mimic her, “Mom likes the ‘hot tea to melt the cubes with perfection.’” I laughed and smiled at Chris but filled each cup as requested.
Here we were, having dinner, like normal. But my senior year was on the brink of spiraling out of control—I could sense it. Who had killed Magnolia? Why? Dad turned off the jazz music playing in the background and shooed my border collie, Kaylee, into my room. “In you go. No begging at the table,” he told her as he shut the door. Dad turned back to the long wooden table. Behind him, vintage racks displaying antique spoons hung on the navy blue wall. We held hands as he sat. “Who wants to say grace? Chris?”
I squeezed Chris’s fingers, prompting him to speak.
“Sure, Mr. Stewart,” Chris replied, closing his eyes and bowing his head.
“Bless this food and help Brenham High win the game Friday.”
“Amen,” Dad said, loosening his tie from around his neck. He wasn’t the football type, but that didn’t stop him from cheering for the team.
“Sonora, can you grab the sour cream please?” Mom asked. Scooting my chair back, I ambled into the kitchen, past my brother’s empty seat. I missed Bram. Why did he have to move out? I yanked on the door and studied the contents. Containers of yogurt, butter, and assorted Tupperware blocked the view. I reached for the sour cream behind leftovers of questionable age. An eerie dampness floated over my arms. Something smelled old and rotten as if seafood had been left to spoil. I rubbed my nose, shaking the horrid odor off, and shut the door. “Mom, you need to clean the fridge,” I said, entering the dining room.
“Sonora, don’t be ridiculous. The fridge is spotless,” she replied, waving my insane notion off as usual. I grimaced. Why did she have to use my name in every sentence? Why? I handed her the container and sat next to Chris, wriggling the moldy smell from my nose. Beneath the table, he casually crossed his ankle over mine.
“So Chris, are you starting on Friday?” My father passed him the green beans from the middle of the table.
“Yes, sir, Coach wouldn’t have it any other way.” Chris plopped a serving onto his plate, passing the blue bowl to me next. “And Sonora will be cheering from the sidelines.” He winked and nudged my side. I was the cheerleader dating the star football player.
“How do you like the new coach?” my dad asked.
Chris nodded, focused on the food.
Dad wasn’t about to ask deeper questions about football. His professor brain didn’t allow much time for sports, but he knew the town had hired a new coach. Everyone in a small town knows when that sort of thing happens.
“Sonora, how’s the dance committee coming along?” Mom asked as I took a bite.
My fork froze in midair. “Fine,” I replied, not exactly feeling in the mood to talk about the Fall Fling. I wanted to stop thinking about Magnolia, but it was hard. I guess Mom found it easy to forget my dead, best friend.
The horrid smell rushed around me. The same fishy smell as before. Weird. Where was it coming from? I leaned over to Chris and sniffed.
“Did you just smell me?” he whispered out the corner of his mouth.
I shook my head, playing it off. His cologne was distinct, rosewood and lemon, his hair astutely angled. He was perfect. My boyfriend wasn’t the rancid haddock source. I glanced over at Mom’s flawless makeup and Dad’s impeccably ironed shirt. Nope. Not them either.
The smell became overwhelming. How did nobody else notice it? I sucked in a breath. It had to be from outside. Chris shoveled mashed potatoes into his face. Dad dipped into the dinner rolls, unaware.
Ugh. I coughed, and an errant bean lodged in my throat. I coughed again, trying to knock the lump lose, but it remained in place.
Then I couldn’t cough.
Trying to take a deep breath, the slimy, healthy vegetable obstructed my airway. I tried to cough. Choking! No air in. No air out.
I frantically gestured to my throat. My eyes widened.
Chris dropped his fork. It clanked against his plate. “Sonora?” Jumping up, he yanked me from my seat and knocked my chair out of the way with his foot. Wrapping his arms around my stomach, he thrust inward and upward violently. My ribs throbbed. My lungs begged for air. Nothing.
“God, do something!” My mom yelled, panicked.
Wait. Mom never panics. Her voice wavered in and out.
“C’mon! Breathe!” Chris clasped his hands around my waist, but I could barely feel them. Stay conscious. Bright neon spots flickered in my vision, and the table clouded out of focus. Was this what Magnolia experienced when she died?
He yanked inward AGAIN.
“Sonora!” Dad’s voice echoed.
My legs wobbled, my stance weakening. Chris thrust his fists into my stomach once more. I hunched over from the force, and the green bean dislodged, skittering across the table.
Inhaling an enormous mouthful of oxygen, life breathed back into my limbs. Weak, I slapped my palms against the table in effort to stay upright. The placemat slipped off the edge, and my plate of food plummeted to the floor—over my new Gucci flora flats.
“Sonora,” my mom said again, sounding less worried and more annoyed by the mess.
Would you please stop? I wanted to scream at her but didn’t. Months ago, I’d had a mental breakdown from stress, and ever since, it was like Mom couldn’t repeat my name enough.
I hung my head as the table slowly stopped spinning. It was as if I’d finished a string of back handsprings at a pep rally, and my brain hadn’t caught up with my eyes.
Chris’s panicked hand rested on my back.
The room became solid once more, but something was different.
In the corner, behind my dad—stood a ghostly corpse, one silvery eyeball hung from its socket. The ghost paled in comparison against the dark blue walls.
I shook my head and squeezed my eyes shut. I must be seeing things. Oxygen starvation did things to a person. I breathed in steadily and looked once more.
The corpse had moved closer. A worm slithered in the hollow place behind the droopy eye. Water ran from its hair and dress, collecting in a silvery pool at its feet. Her drenched white dress sucked to her body, turning the dress a shade of slippery peach. Golden hair hung like sodden pompoms down both sides of a haggard face.
My legs buckled and my right elbow slammed against the table as I collapsed to the floor.
“Sonora!” Chris yelled, dropping next to me, shaking my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Four feet away, she peered at me with one glossy eye above swollen cheeks. Her wet face resembled a purple water balloon about to pop. Her eyes and nose a permanent shade of bruise.
The tiny shimmer of a friendship necklace, a gold locket in the shape of half-a-heart, dangled around her translucent neck.
It can’t be.
I plunged backward, away from Chris. Away from everybody. Away from HER! My spine skinned the edge of the wooden chair, and the pain held me upright. This couldn’t be real. She couldn’t be real.
Magnolia had been my best friend—nine weeks ago, her body washed ashore on Brushy Creek’s swampy banks. She had been murdered by the Creekside Killer.
This wasn’t any corpse. It was Magnolia. I’d known her my entire life. I hadn’t seen her dead before, but I’d recognize that necklace anywhere.
In a blur, her ghostly form rushed toward me.